Heartfelt Prayers

I’m writing this at the end of an eventful week. 

At the end of any week we need a Sabbath; to stop, rest, reflect, renew, and find peace (shalom) but we especially need it this week. 

Death and sickness from Covid-19 are at a record high.

History was made in Georgia with the election of an African American candidate and a Jewish candidate to the Senate for the first time in the South. 

The revered sanctuary of American Democracy, the Capitol, was violently attacked.

The attack shuddered more than windows and furniture. It shuddered our peace and trust. It had shaken to the core the delicate stability of a political Democratic discourse. Maintaining Democracy is hard. Living together in a diverse society is challenging, but we must learn to do it better. In wars, there are always casualties and there is always destruction. In civil wars we kill our neighbors and destroy our neighborhoods. I hope we stop and consider the high cost of choosing to live in confrontation and with hatred, before they become violent words and actions. 

In the spirit of Shabbat, which provides for us time and space to make and remember peace, I offer these heartfelt prayers for all of us to regain our peace. 

I pray we call on ourselves and each other to find peace and mercy. 

I pray we begin to imagine how to pave the way to cooperation and healing. 

I pray we learn from the mistakes of the past and better cherish and protect our Democracy. 

I pray and challenge us to become activists of peace and not of war. 

In time, I pray, that we may find mendful paths of teshuvah; turning and returning to peace and cooperation. 

I pray we embrace non-violence, own responsibility, make reparation, seek justice and act kindly. 

I pray we find a way to Tikkun Olam; to talk and listen, to reconcile and mend the torn fabric of our country.

I pray for the healing of all who are sick. May those who mourn be consoled in a loving community and their loved ones Rest In Peace. 

I pray for the strength and wisdom of the medical professionals and all those who aid in supporting others and the medical systems. 

May God bless and protect us all. Rabbi Sigal

I hope to see you at the Winter Mendful Gathering Series starting Sunday, January 17th at 4pm.

Justice, justice you shall pursue

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. (Deuteronomy 16:20)

My heart aches more each day as the heat of hatred and racism is rising, and dry tinder of broken promises is accumulating on our streets. It’s hard to witness the injustice, cruelty, violence, disregard for human life and property, hatred and anger. People are hurting, scared, hopeless and angry. Private and public spaces and properties are devastated. The voices of the oppressed and their supporters are rising and they need to be heard. America is mourning the promise of justice and liberty as we mourn the dead.

History is repeating itself in familiar ways before our eyes, and this time it is on steroids. It’s almost hard to believe we are in the middle of three simultaneous disasters, but it cannot be denied. We have a pandemic comparable to the 1918 influenza epidemic, an economic situation reminiscent of the Great Depression and racial anger and violence similar to that of the sixties. 

How we navigate through all this as individuals and as a society will determine the future. 

What can we do?

Although the heat on the streets is this week’s focus, and it seems like the coronavirus disappeared, it did not. Please stay safe and follow physical distancing guidelines. I’m asking us to continue to remain strong and hopeful despite the heartbreak and despair and the long road to mending ahead of us on all three fronts: the epidemic, the economy and racism. We are agitated and upset about all of them and the call of the moment is to find a way to stay safe and calm as we find useful ways to respond. 

Pray and find solace as much as you can. Do connect with your breath to help calm down several time a day. Support one another with acts of caring and encouragement. Think of what right action you can take and what is wise and useful to do to advance our society in the right direction. One small step at a time, one relationship at a time. Be kind to everyone. We are all trying to figure out our way through this in the best way we know how. Be open to finding new paths to remain optimistic and creative. Necessity is the mother of invention. These are times which necessitate care, kindness, change and reinvention.

Racism has been with us for too long. We are strengthening our commitment to working for justice so it is not here for much longer. 

Let’s keep our hope for humanity alive and find the good on the path to justice, health and well-being.

At times like these when it’s hard to find the words, I find more solace and meaning in prayer, meditation, nature and connecting to others. I pray for peace, justice, repair and reconciliation. 

Please stay well and reach out to me for support when you need it.

Find Your Sanctuary of Calm

Let’s talk about LOVE

More than ever before we talk about love in different ways. It seems there is more appreciation to different kinds of love and friendships, which exceed romantic love. More than ever before we are not partnered for life, we are disappointed in relationships, we divorce, we start over again and again; romantic love is not as sustained and fulfilling as we hoped it would be. It’s not as promising as the romantic fairytales we were told. Not being married, or in a committed partnership, is a growing global trend, whether by choice or by circumstances, more people don’t marry and new ways of being in loving relationships are explored. It turns out, there are many ways to be in loving relationships.

Love is a large topic. It’s hard to put our arms around topic of love, but we try; measuring love and defining it. For some love is a feeling, a felt sense beyond words, to others it is a commitment, a covenant. To some it is security, to others a joy of vulnerability. To some a fulfilled desire, while for others an fulfilled longing. 

Whatever the conditioning of our culture is, I sense that underneath it all what we want is to be in authentic relationships. We want to be ourselves and relate to others who are authentically themselves. When we are in loving relationships we want to be seen, heard, feel connected and belong. In authentic loving relationships, these four qualities are important underpinnings, usually garbed with elaborate unconscious and conscious desires and needs. 

Alain de Botton who wrote Essays in Love defines love as charitable interpretation of others’ behavior. To love is to be willing to interpret someone’s not so appealing behavior with a more benevolence reason. Loving is accepting faults; being patient and charitable in our interpretation of unappealing behaviors. 

We are bound to disappoint and be disappointed, especially with people we love and whom love us. Love is not admiration alone, although we want it to be because it would be sooooo muuuuch easier. But real life love must include compromise and tolerance of unpleasant feelings and behaviors. It calls us to be mature in loving and living with the recognition we need to tolerate ambivalence. The disparity between what we like and the things we really don’t like. We tend to spend a lot of time and energy rejecting and resisting the things we don’t want to include in the mix of love and relationships, but reality is what it is and we need to accept it. 

Staying in relationships requires skills. Love is not just a matter of feelings. It hurts when we are disappointed, but with mendful skills and sensibilities we can navigate it better. We must stay in the conversation with others and with the different triggers within us, and not run away from them and avoid them. Resisting and avoiding actually make the things we try to avoid more resistant and painful.

In Mendful Path Living we cultivate a remembering we carry in our heart, namely, the intention to mend. The mendful mindset and the intention to mend are tucked in our heart and in our consciousness to help bring us back to love and mending.  How?

I have a regular daily practice of meditation and prayer to orient me ever so strongly to mending. More and more I see how it helps usher me back from the edge of discomfort and discontent to balance and calm. It’s especially helps me respond with more understanding and care in challenging moments. Remembering all humans experience disappointments, hurts, and challenges, we prepare and support ourselves to respond more calmly and productively in stressful situations. The question is not whether we will be challenged, because we surely will, but instead we prepare and plan how we will respond mendfully. How in the moment we don’t allow our habitual reactivity to get the best of us and create more suffering and harm. And, when things get away from us sometime we mend from there. We ask for forgiveness, forgive others and make amends. 

Mendful love is how we live. One conversation, one encounter, one small mend at a time. May your love flourish in many colors and textures within you and in all your relationships, whether you are partnered or not.

 Mendful Living from Your Heart – It’s all about love!
Even disappointments, loss and heartbreaks are about love.

Retreats at Kripalu Center  in May, July, December  

MAY 15-17 MENDFUL RETREAT
Resilience After Disappointment, Loss, and Heartbreak

JULY 15-17 RELEASE, MEND, AND THRIVE FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Information about Mentoring – See Special Offer


Seeding a Soul Inspired Life

The time has come to seed the garden of your life with new soul inspired seeds.

Tu Bishvat (15th day in the month of Shevat) is almost here.  Under a full moon next Sunday we will celebrate Tu Bishvat – we celebrate trees and nature.  Go outside and gaze at the full moon, looking pregnant with new possibilities,  and contemplate seeding soul inspired seeds in your life. What hopes and dreams are hidden in your soul this winter? What do you sense and imagine could bloom in your life when Spring arrives? What cultivation, decisions and work do you need to do now to see  it come to fruition?

Tu Bishvat is a celebration of trees and nature. The trees are very internal this time of year. Perhaps they are too are dreaming and growing with strength. Readying themselves to burst with beauty in Spring.

Why do we take time to do inner work? Why should we sit quietly and meditate and simply make time to be? Because like trees even before the thawing and the blooming, we become alive from the inside out. Now is the time for deep inner growing; dreaming and imagining.

THE PRACTICE:

We begin by imagining the fruits we want to bring to fruition. What will you grow? Sit and become quiet to reflect on what you love; discern the desires of your heart. What is your heart’s desire?

Make time to reflect, journal, speak, draw and be still for a few minutes a day.

When you have a sense of what are your soul inspired seeds, your heart seeds, write them down. You may discover seeds you didn’t know were hidden within. You may want to make a list of them and read it over to see which are the ones with more pull. Keep the list and choose to reflect more on 2-3 of them. Attend to them. Nourish and water these seeds. Try to make time for dreaming and listening carefully to each.

Identify the necessary conditions to help your heart seeds grow and come to life. What are the approach you need to apply? What are the attitudes and actions you will take, or avoid, to support the growth?

Don’t rush. It is still winter. on Tu Bishvat the trees only begin to wake up and the sap begins to flow. Be patient and generous like a tall and strong tree. You have plenty of time to seed and germinate until Spring (Passover.) Don’t rush. Take all the time you need, but remain focused.

May your heart seeds germinate, take root and grow well. May they grow into a beautiful Spring garden and reward you with the delicious fruits and fill your life with beauty and peace. Enjoy!

I hope to see you soon at a  Retreat at Kripalu in May, July and December.

Many blessings, Rabbi Sigal

This New Year Resolve to Mend

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We are the clay, and life, the potter’s hands.

Life changes and shapes us into what we are throughout our lifetime. Do you remember the times you softly surrendered into the hands of change like soft clay, and allowed life to transform you? And, do you also remember how at other times your vessel cracked or broke?

Broken and mended is beautiful. Leonard Cohen, his memory a blessing, sang: “There is a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” The Japanese design concept called Kintsugi, repairing broken pottery with liquid metal, makes them more beautiful by highlighting the cracks and the place of mending. Rabbinic lore from 2000 years ago teaches that the broken Tablets; Moses broke when he saw the people built a golden calf and worshiped it, when he came down from Mount Sinai the first time, are kept in the Ark of the Covenant along with the second Tablets engraved with the 10 commandments.

These examples of brokenness and mending  are beautiful inspirations to encourage us to embrace our brokenness, to stop hiding our humanity, mend when we can, love our scars and stop avoiding life. All brokenness, imperfections and pain are parts of our lives. Instead of spending another year afraid of making mistakes or hiding behind your scars, be daring. Find ways to embrace, accept things and mend more this year.  Although we have been broken and know the pain, and are surely to break and hurt again, we cannot  stop opening to the gift of this life. Yes, it’s hard. But, can we resolve to love ourselves and others, with our brokenness, scars and all and mend where we can?

As we are preparing to enter a new year. I want to remind us to not begin a new year with a list of all the ways we are not good enough, broken, wrong and disappointing. You know what I’m talking about, the practice of making New Year resolutions, in a harsh manner, aiming to fix all that is wrong and unacceptable in us.

Time to change the game. Change the approach. We make a resolutions list and soon forget our commitment to change. We feel disappointed. Adding shame and blame on top of the pile of what we already think is wrong with us, it’s not helpful. It turns out that instead of growing in self love and being helpful, the resolutions only help grow self hatred and disappointment in each passing year. Can we resolve to not use self deprecating and hating statements in an attempt to improve? How about resolving to include only resolutions that resonate as expression of the following: I love you and I care for you. We can try to apply changes, but also remember to not try so hard, guarding against causing more breaking instead of cultivating mending.

Please proceed with caution and be gently to avoid causing more harm within you and around you, even if it means not improving and stepping slowly into making big changes. Unless we all take the mendful path, choosing at each step to mend, no real healing and change will be possible.

Consider your motivations and set the right conditions to succeed. Use affirmations to bring you back to love and care and follow your intention with healthy actions to mend body, heart, mind and spirit.

I wish us all a mendful year!

I am here to help you individually and in groups, virtually, online and in person.

I look forward to connecting with you in the new year.

Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

Mendful living is here for you. Please join us to mend our world and ourselves.    RETREATS 

Instead of setting goals, set optimal conditions

I loooooove retreats!

I’m honored to be entrusted with the opportunity to create optimal conditions that allow for learning and transformation at retreats or many years. I pray and hope “ah ha” moments and seeds of insights are planted during the retreat and are taken home bloom. The conditions you set at home along with the heartfelt intention to thrive will change your life.

The biggest benefit of a concentrated experience, like a retreat, aside from having fun, is having the time and guidance to learn with experiential methods. We have the time to mend and open to our authentic nature and our heart’s desire, try new things and listen intently. We return home with our commitment to pursue our desires, we better discern because we learn in the retreat how to best set the optimal conditions to succeed.

I’m reminded of the positive effect of being on a retreat when I read students’ reflections. They consistently express renewed hope in themselves and in life, and connected to expanded awareness and growing commitment to self love and care they are sure to succeed. I feel grateful to be able to contribute in this way to my students’ lives, and I’m inspired by my students’ courage to open their hearts to themselves, each other, and the experience. It’s especially moving to hear about the positive and sustainable changes in their lives after the retreat.

Where to begin? Knowing our heart’s desire is  a good beginning. It points the way to loving self-care, giving proper attention, and cultivating nourishing behaviors and practices for the seeds to grow. Unless we learn to listen to the call of the heart and commit to taking the steps and actions to fulfill it, it will be hard to affect change.   

Take small steps to self love and care on the mendful path

Remember why you are doing what you are doing! You love yourself and your life and what to feel more joy, contentment and peace.

Schedule regular time for practices that support listening and living from your heart. Resolve to keep your commitment to your practice especially when resistance, negative thoughts, discomfort and forgetting arises. Be patient. It will take time to adjust and cultivate new habits. Plan for small, measurable and reachable expectations. Endure, adjust and stay focused until they become habits.

Use tools of remembering through  out the day. Write a meaningful word and display where you can see it, write it in your daily calendar, read a daily affirmation you like for 10 days and then choose another. Set a reminder alarm on your phone every hour to breathe a relaxing breath, repeat your word or affirmation and settle into a moment of stillness. Pray.

Develop new supportive habits. Daily “refilling activities” are centering and helpful. I like to take walks in nature, ride a bike, sit in a sauna or a hot tub, listen and read inspiring thoughts, write a gratitude list, and meditate in stillness for 10 minutes or more throughout the day. Also, resolving to participate in group activities, like yoga classes, and inviting others to walk or meditate with you is important and nurturing.

May you remember your heart’s desire each day and create the right conditions for the seeds of your intention to grow and guide your life. May the time and effort you invest blossom into what you desire to have and experience in your life. May ease and contentment find you.

Mentoring individual and small groups 

RETREATS

Mendful Living is Soul-Centered Living

It takes courage to embrace the unknown and to find our way in new situations. Change can be scary and confusing. We must find “ground” first to calm down, so that the fear based part of the brain is not the only thing controlling our behavior. I call that part of the brain, the F brain; fear, fight, flight and freeze.
The Mendful Path mentors us to find our soul-center so we can stay settled in the calm and peace of our being, especially when we are feeling scared and confused. Mendful  practices teach us ways to bring more calm to the body-mind, fostering understanding of the underlying deep interconnection of all things. 

I am leading retreats at Kripalu in Decembe and May to explore the relationships between mendful, soul, contentment, ease and happiness.
These holistic retreats provide a direct approach to living authentically and cultivating peace and well-being in all aspects of your daily life. I will explain puzzling concepts and guide healing contemplative practices that focus on reducing discontent and strengthening trust in your authentic experience. Practice transformative meditations, relaxation, and self-inquiry to point the way toward wonder, enjoyment, ease, and contentment.

I hope to see you there.
Blessings,  Rabbi Sigal

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Contact us when you are ready for individual mentoring. Sigal has room for a few new students

Tashlich – Reclaiming Our Humanity

Each morning I give thanks for a new day and commit to finding ways to be mendful, connected, helpful and kind.

Disasters, difficulties and personal hardships are natural challenges of life. We come together in community and friendship and create safe space  and rituals to lighten the load of pain and reduce suffering. TO make meaning and bring comfort and solace to one another. We are reminded time and time again that we are all in this together.  Difficult situations also highlight for us the inescapable truth: our time here is precious and fleeting. We all take turns being in the frontline of disaster, of loss, in acute pain and stress and, we also have our turn in being free from acute stress and danger.

Unfortunately, sometimes when stress arises we withhold our love and care from self and others. We hold ourselves back from life’s joys and kindness when they are obscured by suffering and we are in a survival mode. We forget to reach out and hold ourselves separate; maybe holding on to judgement and criticism of self, situation or others. We can be loving instead if we could only remember it’s available to us. Difficulties and societal upheavals bring us closer together as we experience our fragility and loss.

This time of year in the Jewish calendar we review and reclaim our humanity: our belonging and sharing in the human tribe. It gives us an opportunity to contemplate how we belong and how we hold ourselves apart. For so many of us, with our lists of “should” and culture telling us we need to deny our authentic experience, we sometimes buy into a preconceived notion of what is right and should make us happy. We can lose our way even when we are together.

Why are we focusing on the denial of our human experience?  Why shame, judgement, guilt and anger? Why the withholding of love? What is in the way of feeling connected, cared for and caring?  How can we relax a bit and trust ourselves and each other more? What do we need to release? And mostly, what do  we need to forgive ourselves for? And what forgiveness can we extend to others?

Tashlich is a ritual of release that we participate in during Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year September 30th.) I want to offer this practice of release to use during the days leading to the Jewish New Year. It can also be used anytime of year to help you release. Tashlich is traditionally done with breadcrumbs that are cast into a natural body of water. I am offering a variation on it here with imaginary or real rocks, pebbles, or other natural materials.

Any Day PRACTICE:
Imagine you are holding a stone in your hand, or actually holding one, and bring it close to your heart. Feel it as a heaviness in your emotional heart, a burden you are carrying in your chest, painful feelings or a belief. What burdens are you carrying in your heart? The rock in your hand can be something which is hard for you to let go of,  something you want or need to release. This hand gesture symbolizes your willingness to release and ask for help. You are willing  to stop carrying the worry, the secret, the shame and give it up to make room for the joys of life. Give attention to and notice what you are holding and how you are holding back within yourself and in your life. What has hardened and closed your heart? What have you been feeling shame about? How are you holding yourself separate?

Notice your breathing and relax with the closed fist by your chest until it is clear what you are holding. Begin opening your hand and prepare to release it when you are ready. Toss it, send it with kindness and care into the river of life and feel the effect of the release. Feel how the stones you release return to the river of life and find their place washed anew and cleansed. Be gentle and go slow. It may bring up unpleasant (or pleasant) feelings that are hard to face or hard to let go. You may want to grab them back or hold onto them. One by one, repeat as many times as you wish, until you feel it is working. All the things that need to be released at this time are forgiven and set free.

Forgiveness is when we forgive the hope for a better past so we can live well now and in the future.

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L’shanah Tovah

I would like to express my heartfelt wishes at this time of turning our gaze onto a New Jewish Year. 
May it be a sweet and healthy New Year. May the year 5780 be a mendful path that brings us more ease, contentment and delight. May we share in more peace and may tranquility and friendship reside in our communities. May we experience less conflict and more understanding. May our homes be filled with the love and kindness we enjoy and desire, every day and throughout the year.
L’shannah tovah u’metukah. 
Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

We hope you join us for December retreats at the beautiful Kripalu Center in Massachusetts 

How to let go and be turned

horn_and_pomagranite

Hashivaynu e’lecha ve’nashuvah  Come let us turn, return, and be turned to the one.

After Teshuvah, the willful work of turning and returning, we let go of preconceived notions of what we are and how life should be. We breathe, relax and allow life to unfold for us. The more we allow ourselves to be turned, the more we are home.

Our attempts at prayer for help, as it is with any action, is motivated by our belief, laden with guilt, that we need to do something and that belief causes us to never let go or relax. We are always doing, trying, controlling and seeking to get better, farther, etc. Most often we forget to stop after we ask to feel the effect of our “doing” and to let help, joy and life in. We are habituated to do and we rarely surrender long enough to be turned and be at home.

The Jewish New Year is here to remind us to wake up and stop the doing and the trying so we could be turned. At the beginning of a new year, willing to be transformed and with hope we stand at a new beginning pregnant with possibilities. We pray and ask to be turned and retuned to the home of our souls. (You may have more specific prayers in your heart for happiness, health, peace, prosperity etc.) I hope you can stop doing and listen deeply and pray for an opening in the heart, so you could be turned to more fully appreciate the gift of this life.

With humility and with hope in our hearts we allow ourselves to fall into the mystery of it all and enjoy the ride guided only by our desire to love this life before it is too late.

Shuvah, it’s time to come home.

Besefer haim tekateyvu vetechatymu. May we all be inscribed in the book of good life.

I wish you and yours a sweet and healthy new year and wonderful holiday celebrations.

Blessings, Rabbi Sigal